Red Pork Tamales – I can’t count how many times I’ve sat in my grandmother’s kitchen making them. I don’t have enough fingers and toes. Lol.
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All of us crowded in her tiny kitchen smearing and filling and folding. There are hours of stories that will forever be with me.
This is where I tell you that my family is from Durango, Mexico, and every family, every town has their own version, their own recipe. Adapt this recipe to make it your own.
This is pork shoulder, but you can also use pork butt.
If this is your first time making Red Pork Tamales, use boneless pork butt. It’s a cut that’s a lot easier to work with.
Table of Contents
More Mexican Tamales Recipes:
Some of you might be thinking it’s a lot of work to remove the skin.
See the fatty outer layer? If you have a good, sharp knife, it’s not so bad.
Why to use pork shoulder over pork butt? The bone is going to give our meat tons of flavor.
That and pork shoulder was on sale. Lol. No bones about it.
Place all the pork pieces in the pot.
Use the biggest pot you have in your kitchen like a 12-quart stockpot.
Or, borrow one from your neighbor if necessary. It’s a great way to make new friends! Promise them Tamales de Puerco.
You can’t take out salt. Add 1 ½ tablespoons of salt to the pot.
You can always adjust the salt content later.
Then, add a whole garlic bulb and an onion to the pot.
You need plenty of water. It’s going to make a pork broth that we will use for later in the recipe.
Cook for 2 hours.
Great Idea: You can also make this in the slow cooker ahead of time the day before.
Cooked pork lasts up to 5 days in the fridge.
- Separate the corn husks. They tend to stick together.
- Remove any debris and hairs.
- Use warm water to cover the husks.
You also need something heavy so they can be fully submerged. Rocks, bowling bowls, or in my case, a heavy plate.
Pro Tamale Making Tip:
Soak the corn husks overnight. That way they are ready to go in the morning.
Once your pork is fully cooked, remove the meat and save the broth. It’s porking awesome!
Shred the pork meat with two forks. Fork this pork! Fork it real good! lol.
Place the shredded pork in a large pot and make the sauce.
To make the red chile sauce is very easy. Ancho you glad it’s so easy. 😉
We need ancho chile and guajillo chile.
- Take the stems off and cut in half.
- Then remove the seeds.
- Place all the chiles in a pot.
- Add water and bring to a boil.
- Immediately turn off the heat.
- 5 minutes later, the chiles will be fully reconstituted.
The chiles will be pliable to use.
Discard the water. I’ve started to stop using the chile water to make sauces. In Mexico, dried chiles are very dusty.
One time, I even found a bug in the chile. Yuck!
Whole cumin is an important ingredient in Northern Mexican dishes.
If you have ground cumin, that’s fine too. You can’t substitute it either.
Remember the pork broth?
It’s liquid gold. You don’t have to dig in a mine for this stuff, but it is MINE to enjoy!
I will even use the onions and garlic from the broth itself. All of that will add flavor to the tamales de puerco.
Blend until smooth. You might need to do this is stages. We are using several chiles and lots of broth.
Strain through a strainer to remove any remaining chile pieces or pieces from the pork broth. Next, reserve ½ cup of the red chile for the masa.
Note: If you have a really good blender that blends everything clean, you might not need to strain. If you see any particles of the chile in the sauce, then by all means, strain!
Add the rest of the red chile sauce to the shredded pork. Coat the meat well with the sauce.
- If you want it saucier, here’s you chance to add some pork broth.
- Cook for about 20-30 minutes.
Let it cool before you start assembling your tamales.
Advice for Beginners:
If this is your first time making Red Pork Tamales, buy prepared masa. It will save you tons of time.
The final step is to add the red chile sauce to the masa and mix well.
I do this by hand, but you can also do this with a mixer. Your masa will look orange-y. Orange you glad you’re making tamales! Haha!
To assemble the Red Pork Tamales, start by shaking off some of the excess water from the corn husk.
Shake it off swiftly! (Insert Taylor Swiftly)
- Cup with the palm of your non-spreading hand.
- Spread the masa evenly on the corn husk stopping halfway to the top and all the way down the bottom.
There’s a natural curve to the corn husk.
The thrill of the fill.
- Add the pork filling to the center of the masa.
- Be careful not to add too much of the sauce, or it can spill.
You can add more sauce if you like. To each their own.
To start with, fold one side of the corn husk in.
Fold the other side of the corn husk in.
Lastly, fold in the pointy top to the center of the corn husk.
Caution: Carefully place the uncooked Pork Tamales in a container standing up while you assemble. You want the open side up, or the filling might fall out.
- Add water to the bottom of the steamer and place all the tamales inside.
- Again, they should be open side up.
- Cover with a more husks and place the lid.
- Steam for 1 ½ hours to 2 hours.
After 60 minutes of cooking, carefully move the tamales aside to create an opening and add more hot water.
The tamales are ready when the tamal pulls away from the corn husk easily.
If the tamales are not ready after 1 ½ hours, see if there is water in the pot. Add water if necessary, and steam for another ½ hour.
HOW LONG DO TAMALES LAST?
Place tamales in a large plastic, sealable bag. Remove as much air as possible.
They last up to 5 days in the fridge and up to 6 months in the freezer.
HOW TO REHEAT TAMALES:
Steam refrigerated tamales in a steam (same as before) with the opening up. 15 minutes. For frozen tamales, 20-25 minutes.
Hungry for More?
Red Pork Tamales + VIDEO
- For the Pork Filling:
- 4 ½ pounds pork butt or shoulder chopped in pieces
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 onion
- 12 dried chile ancho stems and seeds removed
- ½ tablespoon whole cumin
- Salt and pepper
- Pork broth reserved from the cooking
- For the Masa Dough:
- 2 ½ – 3 lbs of prepared masa
- 1 cup of red chile sauce reserved from the pork filling
- You Will Also Need:
- 40-45 corn husks
- A large steamer pot
- In a large stock pot, add the pork pieces.
- Add all the garlic, onion, 1 ½ tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
- Cover with water about 2 inches above all the pot contents.
- Place a lid on the pot and cook on low for 2 hours.
- In the meantime, soak the corn husks in warm water.
- Place an object on top of the husks that’s heavy enough so they can soak.
- Once the pork is fully cooked, remove the meat from the pot and let cool.
- Reserve the liquid from the pot.
- To prepare the red chile sauce:
- Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles.
- Place the chiles in a pot and cover with water.
- Bring the pot to a boil.
- Immediately turn off the heat.
- Let the chiles soak for 5 minutes or until pliable.
- To a blender, add the rehydrated chiles, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ tablespoon cumin, and 3 cups pork broth (from the reserved pork liquid).
- Blend until smooth.
- Taste for salt. Add salt, if needed.
- Strain the chile sauce.
- With the back of your spoon, push the sauce through the strainer.
- Reserve ½ cup of the red chile sauce, and set aside until ready to use.
- Once the pork is cool to the touch, shred the pork meat with two forks.
- Add the shredded pork meat to a large stock pot.
- Pour the remaining red chile sauce to the pork and 1 cup of the pork broth.
- With your tongs, coat the meat.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes.
- (If you are making a saucier meat, cook for 30 minutes).
- Let cool slightly before assembling tamales.
- For the Masa:
- Add ½ cup of the reserved red chile sauce to the prepared masa.
- Mix well until the chile sauce is fully incorporated.
- The masa will have an orange color.
- You can do this by hand or in a mixer.
- To Assemble:
- Shake off water from the corn husk.
- Place the husk in your hand.
- Spread about 2 tablespoons of masa on the corn husk
- (Depending on the size of the corn husk you might need more or less masa).
- Only spread the masa on the bottom and halfway to the top.
- Take a tablespoon of the pork filling and add to the center of the masa.
- Fold one side of the husk in. Then the other.
- Fold the pointy top over to the middle of the corn husk.
- Set aside.
- Continue assembling until you no longer have corn husks or filling.
- Fill the bottom of a large steamer pot with hot water.
- Insert the steamer and add your tamales with the open side up.
- Place corn husks on top of the tamales.
- Cover with a lid.
- Cook on low for 1 ½ hours – 2 hours.
- Add hot water as necessary.
- Turn off stove and let stand for 15-20 minutes before serving.
- The tamales are ready when the tamal pulls away from the husk easily.
- Make the filling and masa beforehand.
- Soak the corn husks the night before.
- Buy prepared masa and mix it with the chile sauce.
Maggie Unzueta is the writer/blogger, photographer, recipe developer, videographer, and creator of In Mama Maggie's Kitchen. She has been developing easy and authentic Mexican food, Mexican-inspired recipes, and traveling tips since 2010. From family recipes to her extensive travels throughout Mexico, she brings traditional Mexican flavors from South of the Border and into your kitchen. Maggie has been featured in notable culinary websites and other media outlets. For more details, check out her About page.